Thursday, September 18, 2008

eavesdropping

I am in the front seat, beside the driver of a passenger jeep. To my left sits the driver's friend holding fliers of luxury condominiums. He eats peanuts from a tiny paper bag while admiring his acne scars in the side view mirror.

Pare, don't you know that peanut is food for the brain?” he bellows in Tagalog to the driver. Without looking at him, the driver replies, “But you don't have a brain!”

The jeep turns right and a famous beer factory comes in full view. Cases of beer are being loaded into huge trucks parked within its premises. Acne Scar guy, again, shouts to the driver:
“Pare, look at those trucks! They're brimming with beer! Anak ng puta (Son of a whore), I'd love to have just one of those!”
“Oh, you're such a bore when you're drunk. You're always catatonic,” the driver says, making his best impression of Acne Scar guy's catatonic state. “I'm better than you when I'm drunk. I'm always happy.” Me too, I think. I mean, come on, what the heck is alcohol for if not to bring happiness to humankind? The gods created it to palliate the sufferings of the people.

I need a drink right away, I say to myself. It is obvious that Acne Scar guy also needs one. When the jeep speeds past a chain of shanties, vulcanizing shops, beauty parlors, and gas stations, he looks around and faces the driver again.
Pare, there are always drinking sprees on this street, no?”
“We'll have ours, too, when Oktoberfest arrives. We will go to Ever,” the driver says.
“But that's not where they celebrate Oktoberfest!”
“Oh yes, stupid! It's celebrated everywhere, as long as you have beer.”

We stop at an intersection. Further ahead, the road rises up into a wide fly-over. Three girls wearing shorts approach the driver and thrust the sampaguita (fragrant Philippine flower) garlands they are selling. One of them, the eldest, who must be around fourteen years old, is wearing eyeliner and eyeshadow. The two younger girls, who are unbelievably pretty, resemble each other; sisters, no doubt. The girl with make-up smiles and holds out her empty hand without saying anything. The driver hands her some coins, payment for the garlands he has taken the other day.

“Buy this one too,” she demands.
“I've got no more dough,” the driver replies.
“You don't have to pay today. You can pay tomorrow, same arrangement.”
“No,” he is stern. He notices the youngest of the girls, who coyly holds up her flowers to him. “This girl's beautiful. Come here, pretty little thing!”
The girl approaches and automatically hands him a garland. The driver takes it and pays for it.
“Oh but take mine, too,” the girl with make-up says.
“No, I can only buy one today,” with that, the driver steps on the gas and the vehicle speeds up. I notice that the two pretty girls are barefoot as they walk away.
Pare, those girls' mom must be very gorgeous, no?” I am relieved that Acne Scar guy hints at a desire for the mother, not for the kids.

The jeep traverses the flyover. Traffic is getting heavier. Acne Scar guy suddenly croaks out a line from some cheesy song. His voice is hoarse but loud and clear.
“You have a good singing voice, so full and rich,” the driver comments.
“Oh yes, pare! Wait till you hear me belt out 'Skylight Pigeon,'” and he shouts the first few bars of the song, as if sarcasm were a compliment. A minuscule piece of chewed peanut darts out of his mouth and lands on my right arm. I discreetly wipe it on my pants so as not to embarrass the singer. He notices it anyway. And he is not embarrassed.

I get off under a steel overpass painted in searing pink. The jeep zooms away, billows of smoke trailing behind it. I head toward the sidewalk, ruminating over the romance of public transportation in this country.

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60 Comments:

At 7:01 AM, Blogger Abaniko said...

And you haven't even heard jeepney passengers talk loudly about Pinoy Big Brother, GRO's and their sexcapades. You'd be embarrassed for them. :)

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger R-yo said...

indeed, the most profound conversations can be heard on the streets. am smiling still.. :-)

 
At 1:52 AM, Blogger the spool artist said...

Wow, you've captured a big slice of Filipino pop culture with your post! Hahaha, it's a very typical, colorful jeepney scene... I wonder which jeepney route is this...

 
At 8:37 PM, Blogger john day said...

that was hliarious actually. This is a reality.

 
At 12:01 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

abaniko -- now that's something i can't bear. i might get off in the middle of the road

r-yo-- oh yes. i absolutely agree :)

spool artist -- this conversation is actually tame. I've heard crazier exchanges, fortunately, i've forgotten them already.

john day -- that's why i love riding jeepneys. colorful

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Abou said...

ha ha guilty ako ng pagkukwento ng kung ano ano kapag nasa public transport ha ha

i thought no one cares anyway.

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger {illyria} said...

you're writing again!

i read this with a strange sense of comfort--even if it's the alienated kind. this world you describe is one that i'm part of, yet detached from, one that i ingratiate myself to, yet wash my hands off of. i think there's a german word, "sehnsucht," that's sort of like nostalgia, but involves the idea of nearness, instead of distance. something near, but just out of reach.

 
At 12:06 AM, Anonymous bingskee said...

why do some people drink alcohol to be sad? tsk tsk kaya nga iinom para sumaya ha ha i've heard and seen people who blurt out their life's miseries and grudges when drunk!

i always find these conversations inside PUJs funny. and they tell at the top of their voices..

 
At 5:26 PM, Blogger Analiza F. Villarin said...

oist, october na! when do i get to drink beer again?! well, wine is better...:)

 
At 7:26 PM, Blogger bismuth said...

you passed by Polo Brewery? astig inuman dun. one time the QA specialist gave us a glass of freshly brewed beer straight from the pipes. ahhhhhhh. love love beer.

 
At 8:12 AM, Blogger rheiboy17 said...

even if you're not supposed to listen, you have no choice. there's a lot of story inside the jeepney. pwede ka rin siguro makabuo ng book - buhay jeepney. hmmmm....

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger Sidney said...

Glad to see that you are back... always a delight to read your short stories...
Where did you disappear? In jail...like me?
Anyway...I am back too :-)

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger yosiboy said...

ahh, the story of the wretched commute seen through the lens of optimism.

 
At 3:52 AM, Anonymous kids toys said...

Nice blog! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with everybody.

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger dabo said...

in fairness to Acne Scar guy and jeepney driver, they have the synergy and zest complementary to each other.

 
At 9:49 PM, Anonymous palma tayona said...

here's hoping you write again... soon. :-)

 
At 5:10 PM, Anonymous online casino games said...

heheh..in fairness to them..parang lively naman conversation nila..wala lang talagang mga paki..

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger Jonette said...

has anyone ever told you you sound almost like Ernest Hemingway here? Your writing also reminds me of another Philippine writer, but his name escapes me now...

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger Jonette said...

and now... Ha! You're not on my blog hitlist! :D

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger jj said...

hey... long time no read.... funny as always... update naman pic mo... baka masbuff ka na...hahahaha

 
At 5:02 AM, Blogger ysrael said...

Very common na rin kasi na may kasamang buddy niya yung jeepney driver. Kadalasan barker niya ito (as in tagatawag ng pasahero)konduktor at ka-chikahan at the same time. minsan nakaka-aliw minsan din ay nakakainis yung kanilang kwentuhan.Totoo masasabi na ngang isa ito sa mga pop -culture ng pinoy.

 
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At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why are you not blogging anymore?

 
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At 12:09 AM, Blogger 韋于倫成 said...

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困難的不在於新概念,而在於逃避舊有的概念。......................................................

 
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At 10:10 PM, Blogger HaroldM22 said...

人不可以求其備,必捨其所短,取其所長 ............................................................

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger 于呈均名 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。..................................................

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger 王周宏儒 said...

Two heads are better than one. ............................................................

 
At 2:18 AM, Blogger SadeRa盈君iford0412 said...

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At 7:45 PM, Blogger 江婷 said...

Poverty is stranger to industry.................................................................

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger 原秋原秋 said...

所有的資產,在不被諒解時,都成了負債....................................................................

 
At 7:12 PM, Blogger 倩亮倩亮 said...

當一個人內心能容納兩樣相互衝突的東西,這個人便開始變得有價值了。............................................................

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger 鄭湘定 said...

It takes all kinds to make a world.............................................................

 
At 10:11 PM, Blogger 蕙春蕙春 said...

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At 11:10 AM, Blogger 吳婷婷 said...

人並不是生來要吃敗仗的。人可被毀滅,但不可被擊倒。..................................................................

 
At 5:26 PM, Blogger 宛真宛真 said...

There is no key to happiness, only a ladder..................................................................

 
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first catch your hare, then cook him. ..................................................

 
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出遊不拘名勝,有景就是好的............................................................

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger WillianT_Smotherman0恆迪 said...

心中醒,口中說,紙上作,不從身上習過,皆無用也。..................................................

 
At 3:15 PM, Blogger 欣邱儀 said...

A crowd is not company.............................................................

 
At 6:04 PM, Blogger 王順蔡秉源如 said...

After a storm comes a calm.............................................................

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger 蔡曼鄭美玉屏 said...

時時刻刻抵抗誘惑,就是一種勝利。............................................................

 
At 5:27 PM, Blogger por said...

所有的資產,在不被諒解時,都成了負債..................................................................

 
At 6:01 AM, Blogger 童建李宜昌智 said...

從人生中拿走友誼,猶如從生活中移走陽光......................................................................

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger 靜錢錢錢怡錢錢錢錢 said...

人不能像動物一樣活著,而應該追求知識和美德............................................................

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger 316 said...

愛情是盲目的,但婚姻恢復了它的視力。......................................................................

 

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